Avoid using bad language when emotions are high
For couples that co-parent together, the strength of their partnership and how they treat each other (through good times and bad) are essential ingredients to building a strong and steady foundation for their kids. While occasional disagreements between partners are inevitable (and totally normal), when those disagreements escalate to the point of no return and are aired out in front of children, the exchange of harsh words can have lasting negative effects on the family dynamic. Children need to feel a sense of security and stability, and parents who undermine each other can cause confusion, anxiety, and even long-term emotional damage. For couples looking to maintain a united front and respect for one another, and foster a healthy and supportive family environment, here are 10 things partners should never say to each other.
1. “Why can’t you do a better job with …”
Whether it’s complaints about changing diapers or playing too rough with the kids, criticizing your partner’s parenting style or abilities in front of your children should be verboten for couples. An international study found that children of all ages, from infants to adolescents, can show signs of disrupted early brain development, sleep problems, anxiety, and other serious problems as a result of living with severe or chronic inter-parental conflict.
2. “Remember the last time when you …”
It’s important to avoid bringing up past mistakes or disagreements in front of the kids, which can make them feel uncomfortable or caught in the middle. Focus on the present and the future, and encourage children to do the same.
3. “You’re being an idiot.”
Using insults and hurtful language to describe or address your partner is never acceptable—especially in front of your children. Name calling, even in a moment of anger, sets a bad example and can cause children to believe that it’s OK to disrespect others, too. Studies have also shown a correlation between men who insult their intimate partners and a higher incidence of domestic violence.
4. “You’re driving me crazy!”
Yelling or shouting at your partner in front of the kids can be scary and intimidating, and can create a stressful and unpleasant home environment. Long-term studies on the impact of yelling at home have shown a link between harsh verbal discipline and children’s conduct problems and depressive symptoms.
5. “Why are you always such a sensitive crybaby?”
Dismissing or belittling your partner’s feelings or concerns can cause them to feel unimportant and unheard. Children may feel similarly dismissed and belittled, and the negative mental health consequences of children experiencing fighting parents have been well-documented.
6. “You’re acting just like your [overbearing mother].”
Criticizing or making negative comments about your partner’s family or friends can cause tension and resentment, and can create a hostile environment for kids.
7. “We’re getting a divorce!”
Even if a couple is going through a rough patch, threatening to end the relationship in front of the kids can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for them, who may feel insecure and unsure about the future of their family as well as their own future.
8. “We can’t afford anything with how much money you spend.”
Financial issues can be a major source of conflict in relationships, but it’s important to avoid discussing them in front of the kids, who shouldn’t have to deal with the stress or anxiety related to financial matters. Learning how to talk to children about money starts early and helps to set good habits and values for the future.
9. “If you don’t do …, it’s over.”
Making ultimatums or demands can cause tension and conflict in any relationship, but doing so in front of children can create an unstable and unpredictable environment for them. Experts say parents should take a step back, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and remember they are on the same team.
Avoid swearing or using inappropriate language with your partner in front of your kids. Does a curse word occasionally slip out here or there in everyday life? Sure. But using them regularly in conversation is offensive, lazy, and teaches kids that they don’t need to find the right words to properly express themselves.